So you’ve booked that flight to your long awaited getaway, and are hyping yourself up for the well-earned break that’s coming up in about a month’s time. There’s just one problem: you haven’t exactly gotten your itinerary in place yet. You do what everyone does these days, and turn to the Internet. A few clicks on TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet will fix that, right?
As soon as you get to the homepage of these sites, you know you’ll need at least a few hours to sift through the mass of reviews — some credible, some dodgy — that have been left behind by previous travellers. And this is exactly what the founders of Wedilo, a Singapore startup, want to solve.
Co-founders Philippe Limes and Mixime Cornelli have quite the extraordinary background when it comes to travelling/living abroad. Philippe himself is half French, half Venezuelan, while Maxime is half French and half Italian; both are now based here in Singapore. Between them, they’ve called at least six different countries and four continents home — talk about a globetrotting lifestyle.
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Having experienced both the good and less savoury consequences of online review systems, the two founders decided that we need a review system that would benefit not just industry players, but tourists themselves.
After speaking extensively to others, they managed to narrow down two main issues faced by travellers: a mismatch between reviews and actual locations, and the sheer amount of time required to research and plan for a trip. Armed with this information, Philippe and Maxime launched their app Wedilo in April 2014, and more recently, Nothing To Hide (NTH).
Went There, Did That, Loved It
Yup, that’s how Wedilo got its handle — by putting together the first two alphabets of each of the above phrases. It’s not the most elegant name, admittedly, but that’s a discussion best saved for another time.
This is how Wedilo works: upon launching the app, users will get to choose which city you want to explore. You can then select from categories like Eat, Drinks and Stay to browse the available listings in more detail.
The best part of Wedilo, though, has to be the Find Friends feature. For most of us, the recommendations we trust are most likely to come from close friends and family, rather than complete strangers on the Internet — who might or might not have been paid to write reviews of attractions and accommodation. So it only makes sense to gather the reviews of our friends in one place, so we don’t have to do the actual groundwork and ask each of them in person.
Nothing to Hide
To expand further on Wedilo’s features, the team have since created a complementary app that focuses specifically on hotel reviews. Nothing To Hide (NTH) essentially ties up with hotels to get reviews from guests in exchange for free WiFi.
One concern I had with NTH — which I raised with Philippe — was that guests would likely be annoyed at having to do a review, and respond with poorly-thought out answers just to get it out of the way. (I know I would: after a long day, all I want to do is sprawl on a hotel bed and surf the net; hotels that have made it hard for me to do this have not fared well in the reviews department.)
Yet, I was assured that only 5% of reviewers during a beta test provided slipshod responses, while a small scale test run found that an impressive 95% offered “text rich, detailed perspectives that were as good, if not better than reviews on sites like Tripadvisor.”
While I do have my reservations about this figure — the team might find it hard to maintain the same level of response once they launch publicly next month — Wedilo are banking on the fact that a large number of respondents will “neutralise unreliable reviews”. They also have plans to reward frequent reviewers with discounted stays and travel related gifts to encourage participation.
I’ll be the first to admit that reliable online review systems are something that we could all do with. With Singaporeans named as one of the most well-travelled in the APAC region, it’s only a matter of time before our need for trustworthy review platforms outrun the websites that are currently available to us.
Despite my concerns about the quality of reviews that NTH, in particular, might get once it launches officially, both Wedilo and NTH seem to be on their way to great things: they’ve already gotten in touch with 150 hotels which are keen on working with their platform, and intend to expand to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok in the near future.